updated 05:58 am EST, Wed March 5, 2014
Virtual assistant from Microsoft for Windows Phone 8.1 demonstrated
Video of what is claimed to be a virtual assistant in Windows Phone 8.1 has surfaced, showing the initial setup process. Cortana, named after the Halo character but could change before release, is shown to introduce itself to the user, asking for the user to set up their Microsoft account, naming the user, and asking a number of questions to set up initial notification preferences.
The clip from Unleash The Phones asks the user to type in their name or nickname, with Cortana then repeating it back to check its pronunciation. Due to the lack of audio, it is unclear what exactly Cortana's voice will sound like, nor if there is any other audio prompting used by the assistant.
Questions following the name entry screen are meant to give Cortana an idea of where the user's priorities lie. Questions shown in the video include "When you think about food, what's most important to you these days?" and "What are two of your main motivations for going out to an event or activity?" These types of questions appear to tie in directly to earlier reports that Microsoft is using data from Foursquare to offer recommendations for local businesses, among other items.
Cortana initial setup questions
The video also shows some configuration pages for Cortana's Quiet Hours feature, which will prevent calls, messages, and notifications from appearing on the phone at specific times. Cortana can automatically turn on Quiet Hours for the user during specific times and whenever they are listed as busy in a calendar appointment. An inner circle of users can be set to come through automatically, even if notifications are muted, with a text stating the user is busy able to be sent to contacts trying to get through that are also outside this circle.
Cortana, or whatever the eventual name for the virtual assistant is, could be revealed at Microsoft's Build conference in April, along with a formal launch of Windows Phone 8.1.